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Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, January 2009

This is the final instalment in a three CD conspectus—available singly—of the very first complete survey of the Beethoven violin sonatas on long-playing discs. [See also Vol. 1 8.111251 and Vol. 2 8.111252]…I should note that there is occasional hastiness in the passagework of the opening of No.8. Otherwise it receives a reading of admirable linearity and directness. It’s rather ‘modern’ sounding playing. The Kreutzer [Sonata] is spick and span, decisive and taut, albeit there are one of two misplaced rubati. Overall it’s robust, masculine playing, fluid and trenchant in the central movement as well, where trills are very fast; occasional portamenti as well. Clean and unmannered though it is, occasionally it sounds rather impersonal. The final sonata finds Balsam playing more inwardly than Fuchs where we find a very slight air of calculation to his phrasing. Again though it’s admirably clean and clear-eyed playing characterised by instrumental finesse, a good sense of tempo contrast and fine ensemble. The results can however sound rather sleek. This is coupled with vintage American mono lending a honed and even strident keenness to the tone of Fuchs’ instrument.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2008

The third and final installment in the critically acclaimed first LP recording of the complete Beethoven Violin Sonatas made in the early 1950’s by Joseph Fuchs and Artur Balsam.

Born in New York in 1899, Fuchs was regarded by his colleagues as one of the most musically intelligent and perceptive violinists of his time. Having become the distinguished Concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra, a fall was to bring about a loss in the use in his left-hand fingers, and only through an experimental operation was he able to play again. His return to the stage, after a long period of rehabilitation, brought about a change of career that now concentrated on solo work and teaching. It was a highly successful combination, and an invitation by American Decca to place the Beethoven Violin Sonatas on the new format of vinyl disc brought a major contribution to the catalogue. Initially released in the US market, they afterwards appeared in Europe on the Brunswick label, and were at the time to set a performing benchmark. The final three sonatas are typical of his style, his honeyed tone creating long smooth phrases in playing of total refinement. A highly affectionate view of the Eighth, with its gracious Minuet, has never been surpassed, but the ‘Kreutzer’ is heavily compromised by intonation problems that beset the fast moving variations of the second movement, and you can feel Balsam fitting the accompaniment around this rhythmic unease. That radiant final sonata brings the piano to the fore, Balsam confirming his distinguished Beethoven credentials, Fuchs happy when musically dancing around the piano part. The sound quality in the ‘Kreutzer’ tends to match the uneasy performance, but moves to a higher level for the final sonata, the transfers made from original pressings of outstanding quality.

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